Six consultant tips for AMD patients
In the UK, there are over 4.5 million people with signs of age-related macular degeneration, with around 700,000 experiencing some sight loss. If you’re one of them, here are six tips from our consultants on how to slow its progression.
As one of the biggest causes of sight loss in the country, people over the age of 50 who start to have problems with their eyes might be worried they’re experiencing the first symptoms of this condition. For those already diagnosed, worries about how macular degeneration will progress might start to affect daily life.
Luckily, there are some steps people can take to help prevent or slow down the advancement of the condition. As part of Age-related Macular Degeneration awareness month, our consultants share their top tips.
What is Age-related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that causes vision loss, typically in people aged over 50. These conditions relate to damage to the macula, a 5mm wide section in the eye’s retina that’s dense with photoreceptor cells. These cells detect light and are crucial in communicating these to the brain so they can be interpreted as images.
There are two types of macular degeneration - wet and dry - each of which has different specific causes. Dry age-related macular degeneration is caused when cells within the macula are damaged and die off. Wet age-related macular degeneration occurs when blood vessels at the back of the eye grow and leak into the macula, causing scarring and rapid sight loss.
As the name suggests, the main factor that leads to the development of AMD is age. This is because cells at the back of the eye aren’t regenerated as quickly as people get older, causing a permanent deterioration in the macula. A family history of the condition and certain lifestyle choices or health problems can also make AMD more likely to develop.
What does macular degeneration look like?
The specific symptoms of macular degeneration can vary from person to person. However, it usually involves some difficulties or loss of sight in the centre of your vision.
These can be experienced over time or happen rapidly and usually include:
Macular degeneration treatment differs depending on whether someone is diagnosed with wet or dry AMD.
Treatment for wet AMD usually involves injections into the eye which are given under anaesthesia. The type and regularity of injections differ depending on each patient’s needs and responses to treatment. For dry AMD, there is currently no form of treatment, which makes taking lifestyle steps to slow its progression even more important.
How to help slow the progression of AMD
If you’re an AMD patient wondering how you can help slow the progression of macular degeneration naturally or have a family history of the condition and want to minimise the likelihood of developing it, here are some tips from our consultants.
1. Protect eyes from the light
Repeated or long-term exposure to UV and blue light can cause serious damage to retinas. Wearing sunglasses on bright days, even if you’re not squinting, is recommended to protect the back of your eyes. Ideally, choose a pair that has UV 400, UVA and UVB protection, as these will block as many rays as possible.
Similarly, blue lights from devices like laptops, phones or tablets can cause damage to your retina cells. Adjusting their settings, taking regular breaks or getting blue light glasses is recommended, particularly if you’re working with them every day of the week.
2. Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure (and related high cholesterol) puts the small vessels at the back of the eye under greater strain and can restrict the flow of essential oxygen to your retinas. In both cases of AMD, hypertension can play a role, therefore taking the right medication and following a doctor’s advice to keep it under control is key to protecting your eye health.
3. Take regular exercise
Alongside helping to reduce the likelihood of high blood pressure, regularly elevating your heart rate will help you burn calories and avoid becoming overweight - another macular degeneration risk factor.
In the case of AMD patients, taking exercise can also help to boost your mood as well as slow down the condition’s progression. This is important if you’re dealing with the mental health effects alongside the physical symptoms of AMD.
4. Eat a balanced diet
Another way to keep your weight and blood pressure down is eating a diet packed with fruits and vegetables. Eating plenty of leafy greens is particularly recommended, as they contain compounds such as polyphenols, flavanols and other vitamins and minerals that protect eye cells against damage.
Supplements can also be helpful in making sure you get all the nutrients and vitamins for macular degeneration prevention or protection. So if you’re wondering ‘what is the best supplement for macular degeneration’, then OcuPlan’s new free service for AMD patients can help. Members can get advice from OcuPlan consultants through the 'ask a consultant service' and will soon be able to benefit from discounted eye care supplements.
5. Stop or avoid smoking
Smoking puts you and those around you up to four times more likely to develop AMD. Even having the occasional cigarette can cause damage to your eye cells, raise your blood pressure and override any other steps you take to prevent the development of symptoms. So cutting out the habit altogether is recommended.
6. Keep an eye out for symptoms
Regularly monitoring your vision (perhaps using macular degeneration symptoms tests such as Amsler Grids) and getting any changes checked out with professional eye exams will help you pick up AMD early. This is key to getting the right treatment and slowing the progression of age-related eye disease.
At Ocuplan, we provide AMD patients with affordable and reliable care to help them monitor their condition. By booking regular tests and scans at local opticians and getting in-person appointments with their consultant to review their condition, people with AMD can get the best advice, alongside these tips, on how to protect their sight.
If you'd like more information on how OcuPlan can help you to preserve your vision, contact our friendly support team on 0207 173 5200 or email email@example.com